Whip use in Thoroughbred racing: Is it necessary? - DVM
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Whip use in Thoroughbred racing: Is it necessary?
New research into this training tool brings insight—and controversy


Strong reactions to the study

Reactions to the findings in this study have garnered some criticism from the equine community.

Scott Palmer, VMD, Dipl. ABVP, New Jersey Equine Clinic, Clarksburg, N.J., and chair of the AAEP Racing Committee: "I have a concern about the Australian paper. Personally, I do not think the study was designed appropriately to support their conclusions. Their basic conclusion was that horses that were whipped did not run faster—that whipping horses doesn't work. So, not only is it a bad thing, but what's more, it is ineffective. I believe there was a bias in the interpretation of the results that were reported. I think that the more appropriate conclusion of the study would have been that whip use in the final 200 meters of the races did not overcome the effect of fatigue at that point in a race. It is fair to say that the use of the whip did not overcome the fatigue because these horses were slowing down at the end of the race whether or not they were being whipped. That doesn't mean that using the whip during the race didn't make a difference in the outcome.

"If you were trying to accurately measure the effectiveness of whip use—that is to see if there was a direct correlation between use of the whip and velocity during the race—the best choice of study design would not be a retrospective study because there are a number of uncontrolled variables involved. A better study would be a cross-over design in which horses would be timed in efforts both with and without use of whips. In order to achieve appropriate statistical power, a large number of horses may be needed, depending upon what difference in speed you would be determining at the outset to be a significant outcome. In my opinion, that would be a more appropriate way to do the study."

Jeff Blea, DVM, Sierra Madre, Calif., a former jockey: "The Australian paper's conclusions had nothing to do with the aims of the study. I was not impressed with the study. I'm all for the whip's use; I'm completely against its abuse. I think the whip is a very vital piece of equipment, not only for training, but for racing. It needs to be used appropriately and properly. It's a mean of guidance and encouragement for the animal and keeping the rider and the horse out of trouble at times.

"I get really upset when I see horses cut in the flank because they've been hit inappropriately or in the eye when hit inappropriately or out of aggression. But I am completely in favor of the rider having the whip to use as an aid in racing and training. It is effective as an aid to encourage the horse, to ask them to switch leads. You're not going to make the horse run any faster with the whip or get any more out of a horse with a whip, but you can encourage it if it's done properly."

Scott Hay, DVM, Teigland, Franklin and Brokken, Ft. Lauderdale Fla.: "I do think there is a necessity for jockeys carrying a whip, as there is in many disciplines for riders to use some type of tool to guarantee control of the animal. There is a good case for both rider and horse safety to be able to use those types of tools.

"The things we need to watch out for are the abuses, of course. There are some abuses, and I think there has been a lot of concentration on efforts to try to control those, not only in the racing discipline, but also in the 2-year-old in training horse sales. They have made some regulations on whip use there as well. I think a discussion of whip use is worth looking at, but I don't think a ban on whip use is the answer.

"The United States and the European Union have already had some significant problems with the new rules for whip use regarding the number of times the horse can be struck. In the stress of a very competitive horse race, it is probably pretty difficult for a jockey to actually keep count of the number of times he is hitting a horse with the whip.

"I think we in the U.S. need to be sensitive to looking into the abuse of use of the whip. Stewards are probably the right people to be making those judgments. I'm not sure that counting the number of strikes is proper, but I've never been on the back of a Thoroughbred racehorse. So I think that is probably best reserved for those who are more qualified, who have done so, either exercising or riding in races—people who are more accustomed to knowing what using a whip during a race is all about."


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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